Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Word to the Wise

I spent some time with Amy on Sunday. After paying a visit to her guest bathroom, I had this to say:

Me: I just washed my hands with your Bath and Body Works Creamy Pumpkin handsoap, and I liked everything about it...except for the name "Creamy Pumpkin".
Amy: [laughing] Oh, really? Is "creamy" one of your "words"?
Me: Yes, yes it is. A pumpkin can be many things, but "creamy" should never be one of them. Great soap, though.

Hmm...I forgot I told her about my "words". It's true, the word "creamy" really skeeves me out. In fact, I have a whole informal list of words that skeeve me out, that I would rather ban from the English language.

Let me back up just a click: I love words. It irritates me to no end that we live in a culture where our lexicon is evaporating more with each generation, where a few multi-purpose words take the place of sparsely used, more specific words. See, I used "sparsely" just now, without even thinking about it. I loathe the pretentious use of vocabulary words to demonstrate intelligence or make others feel dumb (I'm looking at you, Ashley Judd. You dropped out of college.* Put down your pocket Thesaurus.) Ehh, that comment would have made more sense when Ashley Judd was still making movies with Morgan Freeman relevant. You probably can't remember listening to her wax philosophical when talking about her latest film where she portrays yet another victim who fights back. Trust me, I have an above-average vocabulary, and she threw around obscure words that added nothing to what she had to say, and made people scratch their heads and go, "Huh?"

"Wait, maybe reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s entire oeuvre is my high point!" - Ashley Judd

I digress. As I was saying, I'm against fancy vocab word-dropping just as much as I'm against the watered-down vocabulary of the average American today.  In high school, friends used to tease me and say that I talked like a Dawson's Creek script. Those kids with their melodrama, they used great SAT vocab words that bordered on pretentious.
"For the past five years, your brother has been nagging you to spend a day with him observing the police process, and you've always told him to stick it. Then, you take one meaningless career aptitude exam, and suddenly you're watching the lost episodes of 'Cop Rock' and taking him up on this dubious invitation." - Joey Potter

It's not that I want to use "big" words that others don't understand. Truthfully, I'm not that well-read. The only non-baby book I read this year was Chelsea Handler's memoir. Who am I trying to fool? Somehow, somewhere along the way, I've picked up an expansive vocabulary. I can't un-know these words, and I can't make myself substitute the word "big" when I know the word "expansive" is a better description. I'm not going to call somebody "anal" when I really mean "meticulous", "persnickety" or "fastidious". I can't help myself.

That being said, I have a few words that I avoid using, because I simply don't like the way they look or sound, or I don't like the way they sound within a certain context, or they conjure up a negative image in any context. The use of these words sends a shiver down my spine. I've come to find that I'm not alone. I have many friends who feel the same way about certain words. Now, to be clear: just because you think vomit is gross doesn't mean you have to dislike the word "vomit".  A word used to describe something yucky doesn't mean the word itself is creepy. (For the record, "ralph" is my favorite euphemism for vomiting). Disliking the meaning of a word isn't the same as disliking the word. That's why racial slurs, bodily functions and crude names for the human anatomy are not on my list. Ok, I'm rambling. Here's my list of words I have banned from my vocabulary...even typing them will be difficult. Additionally, because this question always comes next, I explain how I avoid using these words:
  • fluffy: I'm especially creeped out when this word is used to describe food. (see creamy) If it's being used to describe something else like pillows or bunnies, well...I find some other quality to emphasize, like "soft", "cozy", or "cute"
  • creamy: If something is supposed to be "creamy" and it is creamy, simply describe it as acceptable or satisfactory or good. There's no need to elaborate.
  • moist: I avoid this word at all costs. I would describe that cake as "not dry".
  • sibling: Yes, I always say "brothers and sisters" instead.
  • cuddle: Snuggle is better.
  • fundus: This word is used a lot in pregnancy. My doctor managed never to say it, so neither do I.
  • spouse: "Husband" or "Wife" is perfectly acceptable.
  • puberty: Let's just not talk about it.
  • blouse: Top, shirt, whatever. This word is easily avoidable.
  • genitals: "Junk" is a non-threating substitute.
  • panties: I like undies, knickers, and unmentionables.
And some words that bother my friends:
  • discharge: My friend's dislike for this word even applies when firearms discharge. She says they "fire" or "go off"
  • package: My friend actually refers to a delivery from FedEx as a "parcel".
  • crusty
  • chode
  • snatch
  • ointment
  • womb
  • slacks
There, I've shared quite enough of my quirkiness for one day. What words am I not allowed to say in front of you?

*Ashley Judd returned to the University of Kentucky 17 years later and successfully completed her course requirements to earn her Bachelor's Degree...and she takes classes at Harvard now for funsies, so you don't have to stick up for her. I think she's wicked-smart, ok?

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